tv Tavis Smiley PBS September 27, 2017 6:30am-7:01am PDT
good evening from los angeles. the world of sports and politics has once again collided. this time on the nfl gridiron. dozens of players took a knee this weekend in protest of president donald trump and lest we forget police violence. tonight the conversation with dave zarin, for the nation magazine, author, has been sitting down himself during the national anthem in protest for more than 20 years now. glad you joined us. conversation with sports writer, dave zarin in just a moment.
♪ ♪ by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. dave zarin the first only sport editor in the nation's magazine 158 year history. founder of the website and pod cast, edge of sports.com. he joins us now from washington. daved, good to have you on the program as always, sir? >> grit eat to be here. i saw some of your written work. let me start with the one line that jumped out at me and
followers. it its exhausting to have a president who gets angrier at outspoken black athletes than at nazis. take it away. >> that's absolutely right. it is exhausting. and i think this last weekend was exhausting for so many people who kid themselves part of the nfl community. this idea that we have so many problems facing this country right now. whether we are talking about the devastation in puerto rico, the tension in north korea, the issue still that exist in houston and florida. in the weak of the hurricanes that hit the wonderful places. and yet the president its taking his time, the president of the united states, on the biggest bully pulpit we have is in alabama calling nfl players, sobs, and calling for them to be fired. and this is the sort of thing that gets so exhausting. that's what made what happened on sunday, so dpexhilarating. we have never seen anything like this in the history of sports and resistance. we all remember the late '60s.
mohammad ali, john carlos, billie jean king in the '70s. you never had over 100 nfl players in front of you know, thousand of people. millions of people at home ant entire world take part in a protest during the national an them. and while these protests began, with colin kaepernick, to speak out against racism, and police brutality, and inequities in the criminal justice system. i think what you saw sunday, was a response to the exhausting nature of donald trump. josh norman who plays for the washington football team. this its whs what he said. felt like he was coming to our house and urinating on the lawn. at some point you have to say to that person. hey, get off of my lawn. these were nfl players saying do not threaten our livelihood do. not threaten our constitutional freedoms. and definitely, do not talk about our mothers. that will not be tolerated. and, donald trump, i mean, i think he got smacked down. i think when he was talking to the audience. he thought to himself.
oh, i am going to demonize athletes before the white alabama audience they're going to eat it up i is going to be great. late friday night. early saturday morning probably thought he had the most winning issue in the world. what he did not expect and not understand. maybe because he did not play football himself. lived vicariously through the violence on the field. what he did not understand is what they call in the nfl the brotherhood. the idea that players will stick up for each other. if one of them is attacked. >> a lot to unpack tonight. glad i have you for the full show. let me start with this. you referenced the name colin kaepernick. let me ask, point-blank, direct, does this mean that it is just a matter of time before we see him on a team? >> not necessarily. but i would also say, that this is also bigger than colin kaepernick. dr. harry edward. famed sociologist made the point where he said, the montgomery bus boycott, end goal was not about getting ms. rosa parks a
seat on the bus. about something much bigger than that. that's next to colin kaepernick. while, yes, rosa parks should have been able to silt on the bus, yes, collin kaepernick should be am in to get a job in the national football league. this is about something bigger than colin kaepernick. i can tell you from communicating with colin kaepernick. that's something he realizes. he wants to play in the national football league, very much. he also wants to seatish use. p -- seat issues. the issues, we have a white supremacist president, and racism in the country. an police kilglings have gone u in 2017 relative to 2016. not talking about this. that's what we need to stay focused on. i will say this, given the fact that so many nfl owners came out, and said in word, that they're against trump's divisiveness and trump's attacks on if their leagues, it is going to be very difficult for them to indeed not sign colin kaepernick especially because the quarterback play in this league
over the first three weeks was some where between abysmal and atrocio atrocious. 19 quarterbacks now have worse quarterback ratings than colin kaepernick had all last year. it is very clear to the players involved, from aaron rodgers, to tom brady, i mean we are talking like the most famous players in the game, who, must be pointed out are white. are saying, this guy belongs on an nfl team. and it is absurd he is not an an nfl team. so now that nfl owners, many of whom were the biggest financial backers of donald trump, have broken away, from trump, because trump, i mean really trump who broke away from them with the comments about their league, i think what you could see, now is there is more space for colin kaepernick to get signed. but whether it happens, i think we are going to have to wait and see. >> appreciate your writing, dave. always enjoy talking to you. because the at your best, you are a truth teller. you have a freedom, that allows you to do that. i have never met jamel hill of
espn. i love her. adore her. appreciate her work. she too is a truth terrell. i raise that only because we all know what happened a few weeks ago when she tweeted donald trump was a white supremacist. the white house went ballistic. demanded that espn fire her. raise that because i'm curious now as to how much more freedom you think this gives sports journalists to tell the truth that they perhaps should have been telling a wile ago. >> no, a fascinating question. i know am in a built of unique situation because the publication i work for has no economic or financial connection to the national football league. that means i have more studio space than jamel hill, i kid absolutely kid to be a friend of mine. some one, espn punished for saying what she said on social media. then you say the trump administration responded by saying we are not white supremacists. now this black woman should lose her job. which is really something. so now the trump administration.
think who they have called to lose their jobs. colin kaepernick. that was during the year of 2017, trump and several speeches said she should not be signed. jamel hill. now these nfl players who have been protesting. calling for them to be fired. and i don't think it takes, a rorschach test to see what all these folks have in common. what the ajen dagenda is. and who donald trump is trying to demonize in the situation. will there be mr. space nore sp espn, fox sports to talk issues. absolutely. there has to be. and i think we saw that in the coverage of the games yesterday. what i thought was so fascinating was even more than some of the games yesterday. there were very good nfl games, was watching pregame shows. if you had told me, i knew before yesterday, i knew this from talking to players. that it would be an unprecedented show of descent, by players on the field. i certainly did not expect people like -- rex ryan, the former buffalo and jets' kevin who campaigned for trump to take
trump to the wood shed. i did not expect terry bradshaw, who was in so many respects, this like southern quarterback, icon, who has been in the american eye for so many decade, i did not expect him to go after donald trump. actually lecture to donald trump as if donald trump was a child. on the pregame show on fox. i don't think donald trump understands the freedoms we have in this country. it was a remarkable show of solidarity. by the nfl community. and i will tell you something else that i don't think donald trump understood. is when you are talking about the dissenting players in the national football league, i am thinking of people like malcolm jenkins who raises his fist during the anthem or michael bennett who sits during the anthem. these players, are some of the most respected players. in the national football league. by coaches, by assistant coaches. by executives. because the they're frankly, some of the smartest players in the national league. they're in the locker room. not only understanding and dissecting plays, as if they
have a ph.d. in football, but they're also, speaking abouter use in the real world. meeting with people on capitol hill. and earning the respect of their team mates. so, when donald trump says, malcolm jenkins should be fired. that send a shiver up the entire philadelphia eagles organization, because they love malcolm jenkins, not just for what he does on the field, but for who he is in the locker room? so for all of the reasons, i really truly believe, that, that, there is more space now for sports writers, to talk about politics, to engage in these, use. i still expect espn at times to act like, you know, a scolded kitty cat. when the right-wing echo chamber says you are too this. too that. and i, i also fully expect jamel hill to remain fearless moving forward. one thing jamel hill did after that all took place. this, i think a lot of folks miss this. she very pointedly, apologized to espn. for breaking their, their argue ill-defined social media
policies. but she did not apologize to donald trump or his administration. >> i watched so many of the games on sunday as well. like you i watched the pregame shows, i wanted to see how people were going to behave. what they were going to say or not say? and so i saw all of these owners on the sidelines of their teams. in cities across the country. and yet, i could not get out of, you know where i am going. see the smile on your face. you know where i am going with this. could not get out of my head. while i celebrated that the owners w were standing with the players and rebuking donald trump, while i celebrated with the commissioner, goodell had to say. to the president's di v a's rem. this is the same nfl that took too long, still, isn't as serious as they ought to be about what the injuries do to brains of players long term. this the same nfl that won't change the name of certain teams that are offensive to native americans. this is the same nfl, that doesn't have enough black culture that, black coaches,
executives. same nfl. go on. on. on. so in this moment. i celebrate with the owns and what the league did, but i wonder whether or not they're getting over on the cheap, that is to say all the other issues. still go unaddressed. pushing back on the president when he is cupping aftoming aft money. easy thing to do. don't find that courageous. frankly. >> i agree with you entirely. that's one thing we have to be clear with the audience, too, i think the nfl owners were out there linking arms with players. not because they standin kaeper. if they did. he would have a job the not because they stand with people like michael bennett or malcolm jenkins. i do kid thconsider them and oto be community he rose. they're doing it because donald trump did not stop at going after the athletes. donald trump's sense of masculinity is so fragile and so toxic that he also went after the nfl for being "too soft." on this question of traumatic brain injer.
-- brain injury. donald trump did not play football. the same way he dodged the draft. and goes after people like john mccain. saying real heroes, don't get captured. an, and the incredibly remarks he had for men and women in the military over this time. this is what woo have e have to remember, about donald trump. he lives out manhood vicariously. whether through football or alleged numerous sexual assaults on women. he proves his manhood. in board room. by tearing down low income housing. this is how he proves it. in this particular case, though, he went after people who not only have larger checkbooks than he does. people he depend on. but also went after a group of owners who even the they the supported him in the election because they want lower tax cuts. let's remember these same owners, met in a room and said, we de we dent want donald trump to buy the buffalo bills. he tried to do three years ago. they said this guy is too tacky, too cheap, too sketchy, to invite into our billionaire boys
club. and so, donald trump still has the a bone to pick with them. they clearly are not afraid to stand up to him either. they're doing it less for social justice. more because they're minding the store. let's remember too, this question of head injuries, when you, when you talk about nfl owners. yes, i think some of them are concerned about the players. people they see who come back after they're retired and look incapacitated. i'm not saying they're unfeeling about their players. but let's also remember that this question of head injuries, of cte, traumatic brain injury, it also represents a profound existential threat to the future of the national football league. and whether or not there will be a national football league in the decade to come or what it will even look like in 20, 30 years. and so, for trump to go after them, saying, that they're being too careful. about these, use. and too soft about these, use. they have to stand up. they had to stand up for themselves. that's what they did. it also creates something awkward. you mention defensive team
names. to see dan snyder, the owner of washington football team, linking arms with his players. on sunday night football. i kept thinking to myself. what will headlines be, redskins owner against racism. it's absurd. you know. charles dickens wouldn't dare write that. it is so absurd. but you know sometimes, especially, these days, politics creates strange bedfellows. in this case, donald trump did what i don't think we have seen in the nfl in decade. that's unite the nfl community as a whole. because, there was a singular attack going at them from outside. >> i guess the question, dave is whether or know it is possible -- to, both hold, put another way. this to my mind is not an either/or proposition. both and. the question is can you hold -- donald trump and the nfl accountable. at the same time. while we only have capacity to do one of those at a time. >> yeah, i mean isn't that the toughest thing in politics. to walk and chew gum at the same
time. what makes donald trump so tricky in so many ways is that, you know he, and his right-wing echo chamber. they co-opt issues that people like myself have been working on for years. like today, on fox news, they were saying, hey, the nfl better be respectful to the president, because the nfl gets billions in government money. the government should turn that off. i am sitting there, hearing about this like, i have been working on is iesue, ending corporate welfare for the national football league. guess what, this the first time in history, fox news has ever taken a stance against corporate welfare. and they're doing tiit in the mt opportunistic way possible. it is very difficult. instinct to say, united front with the nfl. wait a minute. i am somebody called for roger goodell to be fired. i am somebody tried to turn off the government mun into with my writing tried to influence that to change the name of the washington football team. to go after the owners.
so, yeah, i think what's needed, so desperately right now. is for the nfl players association, led by demorris smith to have independent perspective on what ails the league. and have that perspective be something that, that actually goes after the owners. in terms tough you think issues look health care. guaranteed contracts. et cetera. but then also, goes after donald trump, and his efforts to, demonize people like colin kaepernick and black athletic dissenters. i think the nfl is uniquely positioned to give us a lead to do this. joining with the owners when necessary to fight off the kind of right-wing attacks but also going after the owners when it is necessary, as well. but, as far as doing it from outside. yes, it is one of the things, like trying to find a, a black cat in a darkroom while you are blindfolded. >> let me ask you -- two questions, dave. that have to do with -- another piece. another slice of what donald trump has tweeted. more than once over the last few days. one he made a mockery of the nfl
in the tweets for ratings being so low. one. it was not just that he attacked the nfl as the you know. he called for a boycott of the nfl. gave instruction to folks through twitter account what they could do, what they haute -- ought to do to force the nfl to change. et cetera. this boycott. can you imagine any condition or circumstance under which there would be a nationwide boycott of the nfl, number one? and the president has the his own thoughtsbout this. what is really behind the, to your mind, the decreasing, the, the low ratings of the nfl, as compared to previous seasons? >> yeah, let's take it once each step. that's terrific level of questions there. deep answers. the first thing about donald trump. he backtracked on the boycott call. pressed by reporters, wasn't sitting in his bathroom with the iphone tweeting things out. he said, no, no, no. people shouldn't boycott. people should do what they want. i think that is a sign about how
much he oversteps on the question. he did not expect the ownership fraternity to koucome out as on against him. he overstepped. did not expect alex smith. quarterback of the chiefs to say why does this president get angrier at us than neo-nazis. he didn't expect things like that. he was quickly on the defensive. saying, no, no, no boycott. then he also put out a statement like, saying this not about race. you know, so concerned that he was. that he was looking like, just an absolute stone cold racist in huntsville, balabama. this is not about race. this is respecting the anthem. i swear to you if donald trump was the sort of individual he could actually sit down and talk with, what, he is not, what i would say to him is -- it's not for you to say that the protests are or are not about race. it's the people who are protesting. who get to say what these protests are about. and what these protests have been about from the beginning, is that they have been part of a long continuum in the
african-american community that dr. king highlighted as well of taking a knee as a form of protest. it is a form of prayer. contemplation. and resistance. and, it was very particular and very, very distinct. that's why colin kaepernick did it. that's why other people did it. and the point was to raise awareness. about the gap between what the flag represents, and the actual lived experiences of black americans in the country. that's what it is. it's not about the army. it's not about the flag. any bed wody who says so is try to dodge the question. ratings. this its the part that is so absurd. you know baseball ratings are an historic low right now. until last weekend they never had one protesting player. the basketball ratings, are, are low relative to 20 years ago. even the they haough they have table. hockey ratings. on some channels, test pattern gets higher rating than hockey. the fact of the matter is that sports ratings are down across
the board. this its statistical fact. you can't blame everything on colin kaepernick. and michael bennett. the reason why the ratings are down, it's not that complicated it has everything to do with how young people spend their spare time. it just is different. the median age for people who watch sports on television, depending on the sport, ranges between 36 and 56. the low end being nfl. the high end being major league baseball. there is not a young audience. to watch sports. sports are frantically trying to figure out right now, how do we improve things like streaming services on phones. because people just aren't sitting down in front of the boob tube any more in the evening. sitting down for three hours watching commercials watching a game. it's lick thke that's changing e american cultural fabric. my 9-year-old son. obsessed with sports. he and friend take their phones. make their own videos of them playing sports and post it to youtube. they would rather do that than
watch sports. you know, just the way it is. that's what they do. i didn't tell them to do that. i don't understand. i don't know how to do what they're doing. technologically. my son is 9. just, different people. to put it on kaepernick. absurd. the last thing, you said about the boycott. and this is really interesting too. because who called for a boycott before donald trump. it was the naacp. it was from the perspective of racial justice. talking about all of the issues that you raised, tavis from minority hiring. treatment of colin kaepernick. to cte, and, the hiding of information that the nfl has done. how that is disproportionately affected black mayors. that has come from the naacp. and to me this remind me of when donald trump, remember when he, first started talking on and on about fake news. he did that after all of the fake news stories came out from, from the right-wing echo chamber. about like pizza restaurants that were secretly hillary clinton child pornography rings. that's when he started talking
about fake news. so i just find it fascinating that he is talking about boycotts. literally. weeks after the naacp called for their own boycott. all me as almost if it is successful. claim credit for it. >> went after steph curry. gold in state warriors. unclear if there was an official invitation anyway. but, not with standing whether there was or not. he disinvited steph curry and golden state war freriors. put their own statement out. lebron james got involved. called the president a bum on twitter. the nba got involved as well. what did you make of his disinvitation of the golden state warriors to the white house. >> gold in state warriors, so interesting. they had the moral high ground. even though so many of the golden state warriors, steph curry, kevin durant. said they were not going to the white house. steve kerr who had been very critical of donald trump, that is their coach, he said that he wanted to meet as a team. because he thought it would be good for the country they've
went. then could have an honest exchange of idea with donald trump. and then donald trump, and said so much about donald trump. that he pulled that away. so quickly. you know, i was thinking just the other day, taf ivis, the moment. you remember because of the work is in new orleans and hurricane katrina. the moment when kanye west said george bush doesn't care about black people. whether you agree or disagree with kanye west, remember the reaction of the bush administration, how appall they'd were. that some one would say that about them. how, how hurt they were, that someone would say that about them. donald trump, i think, if kanye west said that. he wouldn't say he was hurt. he would call for kanye west record label to drop him. i mean almost as if to say, you are damn right i don't care about black people. much more the donald trump approach. here is steve kerr saying, yeah, maybe be should meet. donald trump is like, no, get out of here. we don't want you. he is so fragile. his masculinity is so fragile. he has to tweet out right away. hey, the pittsburgh penguins are
coming to the white house. he has the to tweet out right now. nascar does it right. fire people who don't stand for the anthem. not saying about the embracing of the confederate flag at nascar. this is who donald trump its. reckoning with. we are all aware of it now as if this weekend didn't prove it. >> it would be laughable if it weren't so serious. glad to have you on to talk about serious thing. dave zarin, sports writer for the nation magazine. good to have you on. thank you my friend. >> thank you. >> that's our show. thank you for watching from los angeles. good night. as always, keep the faith. ♪ ♪ >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smilie at pbs.org. >> hi, i'm tavi s. tavis smiley. join us next time. we'll see you then.
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